Frequently Asked Questions


Indigenous Health Initiative is currently engaged in a wide range of strategic planning process. If you have any questions or would like to be involved, please email us

What is the Indigenous Health Initiative?

McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) is working collaboratively with multiple on/off campus partners to develop a comprehensive Indigenous Health Initiative (IHI) in order to better integrate Indigenous cultural knowledge into educational and research programs within the Faculty.


Why is an Indigenous Health Initiative being created?

As outlined in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), the current state of Indigenous health inequity in Canada is linked to the overall impact of colonization and government assimilative policy. The education of all health care practitioners must prepare them to work with Indigenous people towards closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

The TRC provided seven health-specific Calls to Action including a call for medical and nursing schools to establish a curriculum that will inform students regarding the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. Health science students and faculty require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism. 

Who is participating in the creation of the Indigenous Health Initiative? 

The development of the IHI is guided by and aligned with reconciliation values and principles, promising practices informed by health sciences educators, health professional and university accreditation bodies in Canada. It is being led by the voices of local Indigenous community including Knowledge Holders, Traditional Practitioners, community members and leaders, learners and faculty, alumni and representatives of respective organizations dedicated to the advancement of culturally safe education for Indigenous students.

A Visioning Session was held in May 2018 with a broad base of stakeholders which helped to inform the process. A Steering Committee and Six Working Groups have been established including: Knowledge Holders WG, Administration WG, Student Support & Services WG, Research WG, Faculty Leadership and Support WG, Education and Curriculum WG. Each Group is led by an Indigenous Chair. An Indigenous Inter-Professional Advisory Committee has also been struck to facilitate the voice of alumni and other regional Indigenous practitioners.

Visioning Report

When did work on the Indigenous Health Initiative begin and when will it be complete?

Work on the IHI began in April of 2017 and Dr. Bernice Downey, a medical anthropologist was recruited in the role of Indigenous Health Lead. The emphasis in the initial phase of the initiative has been on relationship building, raising awareness about the initiative and coordinating an internal administrative team to lead the work. The pace has been vigorous as various individuals have demonstrated both commitment and diligence to support this initiative.


How can I get involved in the Indigenous Health Initiative?

The Indigenous Health Initiative Strategic Planning process is complete as of October 2019. The implementation of the Indigenous Health Education Strategic Plan will be led by the Indigenous Health Education Learning Lodge, which is an entity within the FHS that espouses an Indigenous academic community of staff, faculty, students, and Elders. A formal report summarizing the development process and implementation plan will be published by February 2020.